potagers, physic gardens and whirling topiary

Yesterday I got up exceptionally early (actually an hour earlier than I needed to because I couldn’t read the clock) to head down to London for the Chelsea Flower Show.  Despite an hour of extra time to get ready I  managed to leave my phone at home so all the photos here are courtesy of the lovely Caroline who acted as my official snapper.

I was rather disappointed with the show gardens.  I appreciate that everything comes in cycles and that fashions change, but I got rather bored of endless firs, sparse plantings and large blocks of concrete and metal.  I mean, I took one look at the metal slabs in the Best in Show Telegraph garden and the first thing I thought was “of course, mountains”??  Meanwhile I rather liked  the comment I overheard at the L’Occitane garden “I might like it when it’s finished”!  Indeed, it was an excellent reproduction of a pretty and arid scene somewhere in the south of France.  But it wasn’t a a garden.  Certainly there were precious few that I would say, “oh yes, I’d like to sit out in that.”  But then I suspect I am rather old fashioned.

This came to be proven when we came across the Harrods Garden.  Plentiful and stunning planting, we weren’t the only ones to think so, it was one of the most crowded gardens I have seen in Chelsea for years.

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It was rather eccentric as every 15 minutes the topiary began to whirl and bob, the garden spun around the folly, and the window boxes rose up to the second floor (I rather liked the idea of being able to take your window boxes to bed with you).  But the planting, it was a dream.

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The other garden I loved, was similar in style, the RHS Greening the Gray garden, again plentiful planting (I particularly liked the idea of planting roses amongst the annuals, so often they are made to stand alone).  This was unusual as you could walk through it and enjoy it as a garden rather than merely spectate.  Vegetables in pots on the roof of the sheds, traditional mixing of veg and flowers and plenty of bee friendly plants.  In both gardens I was so impressed by the lupins, delphiniums and foxgloves so tall and straight!

We are fortunate enough to have enough space to grow pretty much what we want, north of England weather and chickens permitting.  I am very keen to build a physic garden and really want to do the Foundation Course at Dilston Physic Garden.  I wanted to do it this year, but I can’t make the dates so have blocked out the dates for next year already!

In the meantime I  need to start to plan the plants and compare to what I already have and where I have them.  At Chelsea I saw these  by Bacsac

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They are lovely, but more than I can afford.  So this bank holiday weekend the Boss and I are going into design mode.  Actually the design is less of a problem it’s the material, but we have an idea.  Watch this space to see if it works.

Love Gillie

 

 

 

celebration part two

I went to a marvellous party
We played the most wonderful game
Maureen disappeared
And came back in a beard
And we all had to guess at her name
We talked about growing old gracefully
And Elsie who’s seventy-four
Said, “A, it’s a question of being sincere
And be, if you’re supple you’ve noting to fear
Then she swung upside down from a glass chandelier
I couldn’t have liked it more
With thanks to the equally wonderful Noel Coward
As far as I recall everybody left in the same gender in which they arrived and the chandeliers are still intact.  However it was a wonderful party and if I can hang upside down from a chandelier when I am seventy four I will be delighted (and eternally grateful to Noel and Laura my yoga teachers!)
The most wonderful thing about having a caterer (particularly one as supremely talented as Andy – really if you are looking for a caterer in the North East he is your go to man), is not only are you guaranteed fabulous food, but you don’t have the stress on the day of cooking it.  I love to cook, I love to give parties, dinner parties, lunch parties, supper parties, I have even given breakfast parties, I adored giving children’s parties; but sometimes it’s nice to have the day off.  As a result, instead of spending the day in the kitchen I could spend the day decorating and playing in the Barn.
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Work in progress.  Lavender and foliage from the garden.  I keep vast quantities of tartan ribbon which is used time after time.  My fingers were quite sore after winding wire round 16 mini bouquets and wrapping them in the ribbon.
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Finished product.  Worth the pain I think!
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These were the only flowers I had to buy.  One huge hydrangea head and one deep blue delphinium.  Cost £5.50.  I cut out a silver tag for the place name.  By now my fingers were hardended and I had found some softer wire.  I had also had a glass of wine which may have helped dull the pain….
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Close up.
By now I was on a roll.  Next up were table decorations and flowers.  I had already decided on lots of little jars and pots.  So it was back out into the garden to raid what was left.  If you are lucky enough to live in a rural area or have plenty of weeds (!) don’t ignore them, some of them are very pretty and tree foliage is a wonderful filler at this time of year when the colours are so rich.
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The candles are resting in black lentils.  I did um and ah, as I won’t be able to cookwith them now!  But they were just perfect and I had bought them ages ago on special offer so I didn’t feel quite as bad.  Also I can reuse them again and again.
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The finished product.
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The fifty balloons were a present from the Singers.  Unfortunately the five kept turning around and it looked as if I was twenty.  One look at me would confirm that this was an error!
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The only non-edible disposable purchases – two flowers – cost £5.50.  And they will be composted.

simple

At the beginning of this journey I was like most new converts an evangelist and an extremist.  There are some who would say I still am (most notably the teenagers who are, I suspect, stockpiling plastic as I type).  How ever I have clearly mellowed for yesterday I did something that I would never have done back in June.

I bought a magazine.  To be fair I did um and ah for a while, I did go off and do some other shopping before I finally handed over cash for a disposable item.  I finally justified it by reminding myself that all our magazines go to the local dentist or doctor.  Their waiting room reading matter is prehistoric or ghastly rags written by a spirocheate on a bad day and attempting to be a poor copy of a 1960s edition of Readers’ Digest.

So I bought this.

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A bit of a contradiction in terms no?  A magazine about Simple Things.  But I have read the entire magazine.  There was no article in which I wasn’t interested.  I have book marked some recipes and some events, I even saw a photograph of the first flat I ever owned (94 Landor Road, London SW9 just in case you are interested 🙂 ) in a wonderful article about The Edible Bus Stop,  it is amazing (the story not my flat) go and read it and maybe even plant one yourself.   As a final added bonus it feels good, the cover is just a little heavier than most magazines, the photographs and the LO just a little less in your face.  The only thing that grated was the standard bit at the beginning of every lifestyle magazine, two double page spreads on “beautiful things for your home”.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if  instead there was a double page spread of “beautiful things you probably already  have in your home”.

So in that vein, here are some of the simple things around my house that make me happy, make me smile and make me glad to be who I am.

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The first cup of tea of the day.  I drink a lot of tea, I like it strong and black.  I am not a very nice person until I have had at least one cup.  The teenagers go so fed up of me asking for cups of tea when I was working upstairs that they bought me my own kettle and tea caddy for the bedroom.

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Fresh roses from my garden.  Their perfume is heady and goes beautifully with my first cup of tea.  One of my greatest thrills is to be able to fill the house with flowers and foliage from the garden.  You just have to be inventive, it doesn’t have to look like a bouquet.  In winter I bring in armfuls of redberried holly, winter jasmine, bare branches, anything that catches my eye.

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Clementime curd.  I made this yesterday after repeated requests from the Dancer.  The recipe comes from the amazing Karen at Widehaugh House. It is sublime and is a family favourite but never lasts long.  It is best eaten with a teaspoon out of the jar 🙂  The result of any curd is a bucketload of egg whites.  We are a bit bored with meringue and I am the only person who likes Angel Food Cake so I made  Nami Nami’s Egg White Cake instead.  Next time I will reduce the sugar content, but it was good to use up the ingredients in something I knew would be eaten.

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My favourite bookcase, or rather the bookcase with my favourite books.  Foraging, gardening, the Desert Fathers, meditation, living off the grid.

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Freshly made bed.  I cannot understand, particularly in these days of duvets (though I can still make a pretty mean hospital corner thanks to 11 years at boarding school) why so many people don’t make the bed.  I can’t bear getting into an unmade bed and will make it before I get in if I have to!

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Open windows.  I can’t wait for the icy winds to pass so that I can throw open the windows and the doors.  Sadly I am alone in this.  The Boss doesn’t really notice and the teenagers must have some kind of cold blooded reptilian DNA as they close windows and doors as fast as I can open them.  I am winning 🙂

 
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The Floor of Singer 2’s bedroom.  You will notice that there is nothing on it.  Singer 2 is the one child who has my tidy gene.  It makes me as happy to see her room as it terrifies me to see those of Singer 1 and the Dancer.

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Finally my Inuit bear.  My father spent many years in Toronto and Montreal and collected a lot of Inuit Art, both carvings and prints.  I have much of that collection, but this bear is  my favourite.  She has been with me since I was at university, travelling from London to Yorkshire, back to London to Scotland and finally to Durham.  I don’t know if she is the first thing I would grab in a fire, but she is pretty close to the top of the list.